Jason Shueh
Sierra Sun

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May 5, 2011
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School district lends support to Brown tax increases to stop $2.5 million in estimated cuts

TRUCKEE, Calif. — The school district is embarking on a joint campaign with multiple educational and public organizations in support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal to extend increases in sales, vehicle and income taxes for five years in an effort to save schools from drastic cuts.

At the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s board meeting Wednesday, trustees approved a resolution to support the political campaign “State of Emergency,” which hopes, in the short term, to convince legislators to pass a state budget with tax extensions estimated to generate $12 billion for the state and local governments.

The campaign’s long-term objective is to change state and local tax structures to support stable and ongoing funding for public education and essential services, considering funding for schools has been cut by more than $18 billion, or about $1,900 per student, in the last three years, according to the district.

Superintendent Steve Jennings said he doesn’t see any legal problems for the district in supporting the campaign and recommended the board approve the resolution, so long as the campaign doesn’t interfere with district operations.

TTUSD has trimmed $3.8 million from its budget over the past three years as a result of ongoing statewide cuts; the district could potentially cut an additional $2.5 million if the legislature does not pass the revenue generating tax extensions, according to the district.

“An ‘all cuts state budget’ would have a significant financial impact on TTUSD,” Jennings said Thursday, referring to the Democratic governor’s “all cuts” budget plan option, without tax extensions. “We currently are planning for $349 per student less in state funding for 2011-12 school year. If an ‘all cuts’ budget is implemented, that amount will go up significantly.”

The local teachers union, the Tahoe Truckee Education Association, stated its support for the campaign in a joint e-mail statement Thursday from co-presidents Ed Hilton and Jon Halvorsen — the duo also spoke in support of State of Emergency during Wednesday’s meeting.

The co-presidents said the district’s response shows “that the school board is acutely aware of the emergency state of education funding in California.”

“We are partnering together to make sure public education is funded. As everyone locally knows, we have been making cuts to our schools the past several years now and it will only become much worse if something is not done to avoid an ‘all cuts’ budget this summer,” the co-presidents said.

State of Emergency was created by the California Teachers Association through a statewide community discussion that culminated into the campaign, the presidents said.

From May 9-13, the campaign calls for a variety of local and state-wide lobbying to support the state tax extensions — which are opposed ardently by Republican state legislators — ending in a sit-in at the capitol. Rallies in Sacramento, San Francisco, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Fresno, Inland Empire, San Diego and Palm Springs will also join the Friday, May 13, capitol protest.

If the tax extensions don’t pass, Halvorsen and Hilton said education cuts would be unavoidable and would likely dramatically change the landscape of education in the state of California.

Looking at TTUSD specifically, the co-presidents said the district would be in greater jeopardy than most because it is a basic aid district, a school district which receives more funding from property taxes than from the state. Tight budget cuts would lead to the end of basic aid for TTUSD, they said, forcing it to share property tax revenues with school districts across the state, potentially a loss of millions in revenue.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated May 5, 2011 08:19PM Published May 5, 2011 08:17PM Copyright 2011 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.